A modern apprentice programme that provides university students with four days a week paid IT work is helping employers in the Manchester area to slash their recruitment costs.
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The programme, called the High-Level IT Modern Apprenticeship (MA) Scheme, is providing employers with a ready supply of recruits, at a time when skilled IT professionals are in increasingly short supply.
The scheme, run jointly by the University of Salford and Manchester Training and Enterprise Council, could form the blueprint for similar modern apprenticeships in the rest of the UK. London's City University is considering launching a similar scheme later this year.
Manchester TEC and Salford University plan to take on up to 50 students, for a five-year programme starting in September, following a successful pilot scheme last year with 12 apprentices.
The students will attend university one day a week to learn business and IT skills, and spend the other four days working as an employee of a local company, where they complete vocational qualifications, and put the theory into practice.
Glenys Clarke, who co-ordinates the programme at Manchester TEC, said the project is supplying employers with young recruits who have both academic and practical business and IT experience.
"Employers are getting young people, full of enthusiasm, who can be moulded into shape. They are getting someone at the end of their training who is at degree level, but unlike someone straight out of university, does not need training in the workplace," Clarke said.
Gary Rowbotham, director of software service company Vorsprung Business Systems, said the scheme is allowing his firm to fill vacancies at 75% less than the cost of hiring seasoned professionals.
"To find a graduate with the skills to become the next generation of consultant is difficult. They have the theory but they don't have the hands-on knowledge to hit the ground running," he said.
Until now, the only alternative has been to hire experienced consultants, who are often difficult to find, expensive, and rarely stay in the job for long, Rowbotham said.
Keith Cook, HR manager for logistics software supplier FWL Technologies, said the scheme is providing young recruits that can begin making a contribution from day one.
"We get someone who is well trained and can apply theory in a company environment," he said.